COMMENTS: War of Words or Warming of World

Looming global catastrophe? Or the explanation by a boatload of young Britons for their soundbites on Iranian television? The networks filed a split decision. NBC and ABC both led with the press conference in England about the Persian Gulf dispute. CBS did not even assign it a reporter and led with the report on global warming by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Even though the Iran-Britain war of words was the Story of the Day, CBS was correct: global warming should have had pride of place.

None of the networks sent a reporter to Brussels for the formal release of the report by the UN panel. It is the second in a series of three reports on climate change: this one was on the harmful effects on the planet's ecosystems and on human society. CBS' Mark Phillips summed up the state of the debate: "The scientific argument about global warming is over. It is a political argument now."

A warming world will harm most "those least able to endure it--the poor," CBS' Phillips pointed out. The poor of sub-Saharan Africa face drought, crop failure and famine. The poor of the river deltas and shorelines of southern and eastern Asia face floods from rising ocean waters. ABC's Bill Blakemore (subscription required) warned that the oceans' coral reefs are endangered, too, as water grows more acidic. NBC's Anne Thompson quoted panel member Stephen Schneider: "Do not be poor in a hot country. Do not live in hurricane alley. Watch out about being on the coasts or in the Arctic." Yet Thompson found William Gray, the National Hurricane Center forecaster, who "disputes any link" between manmade global warming and an increased incidence of such storms.


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